Serogroup-specific risk factors for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infection in Australia.Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Jul 15; 49(2):249-56.CI
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an important cause of foodborne illness. In Australia, risk factors for STEC infection have not been examined at a national level.
We conducted a case-control study in 6 Australian jurisdictions from 2003 through 2007. A case patient was defined as a person from whom STEC was isolated or toxin production genes were detected in stool. Case patients were recruited from notifiable disease registers, and 3 control subjects frequency matched by age were selected from databases of controls. Using structured questionnaires, interviewers collected data on clinical illness, foods consumed, and exposures to potential environmental sources.
We recruited 43 case patients infected with STEC serogroup O157, 71 case patients infected with non-O157 serogroups, and 304 control subjects. One patient infected with serogroup O157 and 7 infected with non-O157 serogroups developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Compared with control subjects, case patients infected with STEC O157 were more likely to eat hamburgers, visit restaurants, have previously used antibiotics, or have family occupational exposure to red meat. Case patients infected with non-O157 STEC were more likely to eat sliced chicken meat or corned beef from a delicatessen, camp in the bush, eat catered meals, or have family occupational exposure to animals. Negative associations were observed for certain foods, particularly homegrown vegetables, fruits, or herbs.
This study of risk factors for STEC infection by serogroup highlights risks associated with eating hamburgers and occupational handling of raw meat. To prevent infection, hamburgers must be cooked thoroughly, and people handling raw meat or who have close contact with animals must ensure adequate hygiene.